This blog is written in honor of April’s Stress Awareness Month.
There are some challenges we are all going to inevitably face throughout life, and one of those is stress. There are healthy levels of stress, due to what comes with life and all of its responsibilities. One way that stress can shift into unhealthy stress is when we take on more than we can handle.
Even with this awareness, we tend to hold a level of optimism that is so high that we will get through it all, and the truth of the matter is, we probably will accomplish it all.
But at what cost?
Will our joints and muscles be extra sore? Will we feel drained, unable to participate in conversations with loved ones? Will we find that our mind is super distracted by all of the tasks that we are trying to do, rather than staying present in whatever is going on at the moment? We are adapting as a planet and society, but what comes with that is often expectations and comparisons.
Over the last decade or so, there is an increase in our means to get a front row seat at the ‘life movies’ of others. There aren’t as many moments to just ask ourselves, what do I need at this moment? What type of activities do I personally want to participate in? How do I want to show up in my relationships? And when is it time to just give into solitude and relaxation?
We lost a bit of that trust in ourselves to listen to our own needs, regardless of what the outside world has to say. When was the last time you asked yourself, “What do you need today?” It doesn’t come as easy as it should. I’d like to explore some perspective shifts, as well as management tools to reduce the amount of stress we allow to pile on.
I say allow because this is also a reminder to be compassionate toward yourself as you honor how best to reduce your stress.
1. Be mindful of your time.
I encourage you to try and focus on one task at a time. We live in a society that has normalized multi-tasking.
But the reality is, multitasking rarely works.
It’s important to be realistic about your time by limiting overcommitments. It can be tempting or you may feel pressured to say yes to everything, but spreading yourself too thin will actually create more stress.
Lastly, when it comes to your daily tasks, consider ordering them by importance and creating single steps or actions in order to accomplish them. This is helpful because we tend to see one item on a to-do list that may take hours or even days to accomplish, and that in itself can be overwhelming. By writing down how you will execute a task, it can help reduce stress and also create structure when performing that task.
2. Pinpoint your stress triggers.
In order to reduce stress as well as keeping it at bay, it’s important to understand your stress triggers and indications of stress overload.
Let’s explore a place that brings out a lot of stress – what situations, places and people come to mind? If you know you’ll be in the environment of these stressors, it’s best to prepare, in order to reduce your stress triggers.
Ask yourself, what am I feeling? What am I thinking? Become aware of how you respond to these stressors through behaviors that you feel are more appropriate for the outcome that you have in mind.
Some signs of stress overload are changes in sleep or appetite, irritability, headaches, memory problems or trouble concentrating. If you are experiencing any of these signs, chances are stress is holding a large place in your life that you longer want to welcome.
3. Seek out support.
If stress is becoming all encompassing, it’s important to talk to a trusted loved one about this. This person may have even gone through something similar and be able to offer helpful guidance to help alleviate the stress.
I am also a huge advocate for therapy and coaching. These practitioners are trained and experienced to support in reducing our stress. They can even get to the root cause of how our behaviors and beliefs impact that stress. They are also able to offer relaxation techniques that you can do on your own time when you are feeling overwhelmed.
4. Remember that balance is key.
What happens if we try to do too much at once? We get burnt out, we don’t have as much space to hold for others, we are drained before we even start, develop mental health struggles, and the biggest one of all — we will probably still not feel like it's accomplished because the reality is, our brains are always thinking of different and new ways to do things.
There is this part of us that also believes if we don’t get it all done at once, it may never get done. Depending on the person, there is some truth to doing a task in one sitting, but every situation is different from the next. Which is why this is so important — especially for fellow spoonies!
Let’s instead practice saying to ourselves, “I’ve done enough for today. I need some time to recharge.” We can flow smoother into the next day if we allow ourselves the down time needed.
5. Learn to set boundaries.
What happens if we set boundaries on our work? We have more mental clarity, our tank isn’t empty by the time we sit down with a loved one for a meal or conversation, we may be able to work on another chore or task with that time (it’s helpful to switch up the things you do for mind and body). Instead, sleep on it a bit and revisit it with a fresh, clear head.
Our time is limited and precious, so we must use it wisely. Boundaries help us prioritize what nourishes us and what does not. Start with a value that you have, then determine what it will take to honor that value through setting goals and action steps.
Set better boundaries with people, technology and other draining distractions. Silence it. Shut it down. Remove yourself from electronic devices an hour before bed. Tell your loved ones, “Thank you for honoring this much needed ‘me’ time.”
6. Do nothing at all.
I’m not saying do literally nothing to work on your stress, I’m saying make an intentional choice to do nothing, which is actually doing something. Decompress in your own way. Reflect. Recharge. Slow everything down.
We think our tank is filling itself up on its own, but realistically, we do not have to do anything in order to refill it. We just have to listen to our mind and body when it’s telling us it’s time to rest.
Give yourself at least five minutes a day to do nothing and build from there. You will notice a difference in many things and one of those is your stress beginning to decrease.
A few slow, deep breaths can go a long way.
Macy Cassera is an ambassador and freelance blog writer for Slick Chicks. She has prior experience as a model in New York City for fashion, commercial and parts modeling. Macy combines these passions with mental health awareness to underpin our sense of self and strive for a world of inclusivity and equitable representation. To get in touch with Macy, please send her an email or send a message through her official website or Instagram.